Kudos to the writers of Batwoman Season 2 Episode 4, who managed to weave exposition into a multi-pronged narrative masterfully.
Long-time viewers are used to the use of flashback as much of Batwoman Season 1 was taken up with Beth Kane's (aka Alice's) memories of her abduction and abuse at August Campbell's hands (and his mother).
In a cleverly constructed script, we have the current issue of the drug Snake Bite tied together with the False Face Society, who recruit through the Candy Lady, who once abducted Ryan, who was saved by her foster home friend, who turns out to be the infamous Angelique Zsasz mentioned on Batwoman Season 2 Episode 3.
Even better, the modern-day Angelique appears before we know who she is, taking on Sophie in the apartment belonging to Alice's target, Ocean, who apparently dabbles in producing Snake Bite.
It's all connected, and that's some pretty great plot-work right there.
In fact, I'll take it a half-step further and make the wild prediction that Ocean turns out to be Black Mask, the leader of the False Face Society.
The fact that Alice had a visceral response to seeing his picture only adds another twist to the Gordian Knot that this season's story arc is turning into.
Sophie: We're looking for a man named Ocean. I'm happy to tell you everything you want to know about the seven seas but there's only so far I can get without a last name.
Alice: Yeah, Coryana doesn't really do last names. Safiyah. Ocean. Tatiana. It's all very biblical.
I'll admit to thoroughly enjoying watching Alice get on Sophie's nerves. That's a buddy team-up I never thought I'd ever see.
Alice: Do you have anything with actual calories in here?
Sophie: There's rat poison under the sink.
I guess if Luke's going to pick on Ryan, Alice gets to have her snarky fun too.
I've got a lot of questions about the tracking down of Ocean.
If Julia had four potential addresses for the guy, it's pretty lucky that the one Sophie decides to investigate turns out to be the right one.
Also, assuming he is Black Mask, I'm unclear why he's making Snake Bite in his apartment when the opening scenes clearly illustrate that the False Face Society had a factory churning the stuff out.
It seems that the gang known as the False Face Society is showing their entrepreneurial side by making and distributing Snake Bite, known for its dual-pronged injector needles which are said to give a double-whammy dose of fantasy and fright. So more fang for your buck. This trippy two-for-one is part psychedelic mushroom oil, part concentrated fear toxin.Vesper Fairchild
If he isn't Black Mask, is he trying to backwards-engineer the stuff? But then, why is he writing notes to himself about dropping off merch?
Maybe, the apartment isn't Ocean's but belongs to one of his lackeys?
This might explain the photo on the wall since -- and I'm stereotyping here -- guys don't usually hang pics of themselves as decor.
Anyhoo, as usual, Alice has her hit list with the top spots being Ocean and Kate, and Sophie is going to play party pooper on both of those, it seems.
Sophie: What the hell are you doing in my condo?
Alice: Sampling the products in your guest bath? Of course, your scene is lavender.
Which means more Alice-Sophie bonding time. Woot?
If Safiyah's really got a thing for Sophie, AND Julia's still in the picture, this is going to get messy.
Luke didn't get a lot to work with this time out. He disagrees with Mary on the whole let's-look-for-Kate thing. He heads out to Sophie's only to find Alice. He figures out Ocean's location. Sort of. With Julia's help.
He only really got one curmudgeonly moment in the whole hour. Felt like a bit of a waste of the actor with the most episodes credited of the whole cast on IMDB. But it's not the Luke Fox/Batwing show, after all. Yet.
Luke: Sophie just told us that Kate is alive on an island in the Mediterranean.
Mary: Yeah and the person who told Sophie that Kate's alive is named Alice. And Alice heard it from some mystery woman named Safiyah who just hired a hitman to try and kill me. So, we are playing a game of telephone with a bunch of homicidal women.
On the other hand, Mary is moving at lightning speed in both character development and relationship establishment.
Her inheritance of most things Kate helped Ryan figure out the Candy Lady's locations. She rides shotgun on the van tour of the old hood. She's even nesting above The Hold Up and gets Ryan to move in with her.
Y'know, I can live in her place and take over her bar, hold onto all the little pieces of her, but none of it will bring me closure if I don't actually look.Mary
More significantly, she evolves from determined hopelessness about Kate to committing to the search by the end.
Ultimately, however, this episode is about Ryan and how her Batwoman is one steered by Ryan's injustices in her life.
Her search for Kevin and the legacy of the Candy Lady (whose real name was actually Candice, did you catch that?) is just one of the societal and systemic inequities this season aims to address with the casting of Javicia Leslie.
Black, male, foster kid, juvie. In case you're wondering why GCPD isn't looking for him, those five words.Ryan
They are not shying away from the realities of racism and poverty. Both Ryan's flashbacks to her childhood experiences and Kevin's reaction to being given a chance to belong to the False Face Society illustrate the dangers of living the life of the invisible.
Ryan had Angelique. Kevin has his brother. Obviously, not every child the Candy Lady took had someone who saw them, accounted for them, or looked for them.
The fact that Jacob's search for Kate dovetails with Ryan's search for Kevin isn't lost on me, either.
Batwoman cannot change the system on her own. Organizations like the Crows and the GCPD need to change to see.
Jacob: How did you know he was here?
Batwoman: Easy. I looked
It does bug me that Jacob credits Batwoman for saving him now when Kate saved him multiple times.
Why was there a volunteer search party canvassing Wayside when Gabby and Beth's car went into a river that flowed away from Gotham?
Lastly, was Candy Lady bathing in the blood of some of her victims?
She looked younger when Ryan confronted her than when she abducted her in 1997 (as dated by the Kyoto Protocol headline on the back of the paper she was reading).
That's TWENTY-THREE years. WTH?
Looking at weapons for a moment, I'm wondering if I'm the only one who noticed the guns versus knives ratio.
Sophie draws a gun on Alice. Alice then aims that same gun on Luke. Kevin is handed a gun to kill Jacob with.
Alice has a knife from Safiyah with which she is to kill Ocean. Candy Lady brings a knife up to check on Ryan. Alice pulls her butterfly knife to scare off the thug who, we later discover, is Angelique.
Sophie: Alice, put the gun down.
Alice: Sorry, Soph, but threesomes aren't my thing. Especially when one-third worked with Kate to lock me in at Arkham.
Yeah, there were also a couple of zap batons and an occasional flying candy dish, but this actually feels like a pretty even split between the professional (gun) and the personal (blade) weaponry on the scene.
I'm probably reading too much into it, but there's symbolism at play in toy choice (as we saw with Zsasz).
After you've watched Batwoman online, come back and fill me in on whether, for example, you could see Jacob wielding a blade instead of a gun.
And with that in mind, what will our new baddies bring to the table?
See y'all next week. Same Bat-time. Same Bat-channel. All new Batwoman.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.